Georgians would welcome sports betting, casinos, but pols antsy


georgia-sports-betting-casino-pollLegalizing casinos and sports betting would be no problem for residents of the state of Georgia, according to the results of a new opinion survey.

Georgia is one of the dwindling number of US states that has yet to authorize casino gambling within their borders and the state has also yet to join the parade of states that have okayed legal sports betting. Lawmakers debated both issues last year but failed to come to any agreement on how best to proceed.

Earlier this week, Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan poured cold water on the chances of gambling proponents convincing enough of the fence-sitters to see things their way. Duncan acts as a gatekeeper for which bills come to the floor of the state senate, and he said Monday that he had yet to see an “overwhelming push for gambling here.”

Allowing casinos to operate in Georgia would require amending the state constitution, so a gambling bill would require the support of a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers, then approval by voter referendum.

House Speaker David Ralston is pressing to get a question onto this November’s election ballot that would seek Georgians’ permission to authorize casinos, online sports betting and horseracing wagers. Other legislators have suggested narrowing that list down to the gambling forms that have the most support.

According to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of 1,025 local residents, casino gambling has the largest level of support, with 64.2% of respondents saying they were fine with casinos in their state, two points higher than a similar survey in 2016. Sports betting scored 57.1% support in the new poll, with younger voters expressing significantly greater support than seniors for both gambling options.

MGM Resorts has been among the most ardent suitors of an Atlanta-area casino, having pledged years ago to spend $1.4b on an integrated resort. Las Vegas Sands has also expressed interest in Atlanta, but all major US companies would likely throw their hat into the ring if lawmakers could finally push this legislative elephant over the finish line.